A federal judge in Pennsylvania will hear arguments Monday in a lawsuit that both sides say could set the fundamental ground rules for how American students are taught the origins of life for years to come. At issue is an alternative to the standard theory of evolution called “intelligent design.” Proponents argue that the structure of life on Earth is too complex to have evolved through natural selection, challenging a core principle of the biological theory launched by Charles Darwin’s “The Origin of Species” in 1859. Instead, contend adherents of intelligent design, life is probably the result of intervention by an intelligent agent.
The suit, brought by 11 parents, challenges the Dover Area School District’s adoption last year of an addition to the science curriculum directing teachers — in addition to teaching evolution — to tell students about intelligent design and refer them to an alternative textbook that champions it. Three opposing board members resigned after the vote. The parents contended that the directive amounted to an attempt to inject religion into the curriculum in violation of the First Amendment.